Construction Employment Continues Decline

According to a report from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Arlington, Va., construction employment declined by 61,000 jobs in February, while the sector’s unemployment rate increased to 9.6% amid severe weather conditions and continuing weakness in new nonresidential projects.

The 61,000 job decline from January to February represents the first overall decline since April 2020.

“Employment totaled 7,340,000, a decrease of 308,000, or 4% from the most recent peak in February 2020,” according to the report.

The job losses were concentrated in the nonresidential construction sector, with a decline of 60,800 jobs in February, following a drop of 400 jobs in January. February 2021 had a total of 316,000 jobs (or 6.8%) less than February 2020.

“Only half of the jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic had been regained by February,” the report noted.

During the most recent month, nonresidential building contractors shed 3,300 jobs, and nonresidential specialty trade contractors lost 5,500 jobs, while heavy and civil engineering construction firms (the category most likely to be affected by winter storms) lost 20,800 jobs.

Residential construction employment, which comprises residential building and specialty trade contractors, dropped just 200 jobs in February. However, the sector’s employment remained slightly higher than one year ago.

The report also noted that construction unemployment has surged over the last 12 months. A total of 921,000 former construction workers were unemployed, up from 531,000 a year earlier, and the highest for any February since 2014. As noted earlier, the February unemployment rate in 2021 was 9.6%; it was 5.5% in February 2020.

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